India targetting higher ranking by year-end: Harendra

The runners-up finish in the Punjab Gold Cup has lifted the morale of the Indian hockey team which will now chase the No. 6 spot in the world rankings.

updated: February 10, 2009 10:21 IST
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The runners-up finish in the Punjab Gold Cup has lifted the morale of the Indian hockey team which will now chase the number six spot from the current 11th in the world rankings by the end of this year, coach in-charge Harendra Singh said on Tuesday.

"After we failed to qualify for the Olympics, the team was low on confidence and morale. Now, after their performance in the Argentina Test series and the Punjab Cup, the confidence level is back and you will see results in upcoming tournaments as well," Harendra said.

He said the team was eyeing the Champions Challenge in Argentina in December which would take them to the number six spot. After that, breaking into top four would be the next target.

"I have set realistic targets for my team. It all falls within the plan for the 2010 World Cup, it's a step by step process. Now, if somebody expects us to be world champions overnight, I think that would be too much of an ask," he said.

Harendra said though India lost 1-2 to European Champions Holland in the Punjab Gold Cup here last night, the result has not been a disappointment at all.

"I think we were equal to the challenge and we delivered. If my team goes down fighting, there is nothing to be disheartened about. Yesterday also though we lost, but I think our hockey won. The Cup has also proved to be a good platform to take our hockey forward," Harendra said.

He, however, said, "it does not mean we will not work on our shortcomings. Of course, there is a lot of scope for further improvement which we will sit back and discuss with the team."

Harendra said India faced a major problem of conceding "soft penalty corners" besides some lapses in the defence, an area where they will need to improve.

The Coach also said the crowd response to the Cup has been tremendous and it would inspire youth to take to the sport.

Harendra said he has taught his wards to play attacking hockey.

"I cannot think of being defensive. I always tell my team that you have to play for a win and even if the result is not in our favour on some days, we must not surrender without putting up a fight," he said.

Asked why the nation's hockey had lost its glory in recent years, Harendra said, "One of the reasons for the downfall of Indian hockey in recent years is not having international tournaments at home."

"By not playing on our own soil, I think we have damaged to our hockey. People too don't get to see their players in action back home and the support which the national game needs from the crowds is not there," Harendra said.

"We need more events like the Punjab Cup, which was a state government organised event, for which former captain and organising secretary of the tournament, Pargat Singh deserves a lot of credit. Such tournaments and even Test series with different nations should be held in other parts of the country as well for revival of hockey," he suggested.

"Our hockey needs a collective effort by all to bring back its old glory. I don't think one person like me or for that matter any other individual alone can restore the sport's lost glory," he added.

Harendra said India would be leaving for Australia on February 11 for a two-match series followed by another four-match series in New Zealand from February 19.